South Africa v West Indies
Saturday March 26, 1:00am
Friday night sees the World T20 Cup clash between the unbeaten West Indies and highly-fancied South Africa at Nagpur’s Vidharbha Cricket Association Stadium.
After a first-up loss to England, South Africa got their campaign off the mark with an unconvincing win over Afghanistan on Sunday. In both matches the Proteas powerful batting unit amassed totals in excess of 200, however on both occasions their bowlers leaked runs at an alarming rate with England running down 229 and minnows Afghanistan threatening to do the same when chasing 209, before eventually being bowled out for 172.
Star quick Dale Steyn was dropped for the match against Afghanistan although the Proteas may look to their slow-bowling options for this encounter, given that leg-spinner Imran Tahir has conceded just 6.50 runs an over while all other bowlers have leaked more than nine runs an over.
On the plus side South Africa’s formidable batting unit has lived up to its reputation, highlighted by two blistering starts at the top of the order from Quinton de Kock.
A win in this match should ensure not only that the West Indies progress to the semi-finals but also that they top the group which would be some achievement given the lack of cricket they played together in the lead-up to the tournament.
There is an injury cloud over Chris Gayle who did not bat in the Windies’ last match against Sri Lanka after suffering a hamstring complaint in the field. His replacement Andre Fletcher made the most of his promotion with an unbeaten 84 off 64 balls to guide the Calypso Kings home.
However the win over Sri Lanka was largely due to the efforts of the Windies’ bowling attack, which restricted Sri Lanka to just 9/122, lead by Samuel Badree’s 3/12. The one area where the West Indies will look for improvement is in their middle-order, especially from ‘keeper Denesh Ramdin who after successive failures has only passed 15 with the bat once in his last ten T20I innings.
Vidarbha Cricket Association Stadium
The Vidharbha Cricket Association Stadium in Nagpur hosted the tournament opener between New Zealand and India where eleven separate batsmen were dismissed in single figures and spinners found conditions particularly to their liking. All up the tweakers took a combined 12/118 off 23 overs as India were rolled for just 79 chasing the Black Caps’ moderate 7/126.
*South Africa have conceded scores of 170 or more in their last four T20Is, two of which exceeded 200.
*South Africa have won eight of their past ten T20Is in Asia.
*South Africa have beaten the West Indies in six out of the nine T20Is they’ve played.
*West Indies have not won four consecutive T20Is since March 2013.
*West Indies have won nine of their last 12 T20Is in Asia.
Despite their underwhelming start to the competition South Africa are warm favourites to continue their strong record over the West Indies in this format.
While there’s no doubt that the fitness of Gayle looms as an important factor I believe that this Windies’ squad is capable of beating the Proteas without him, especially with the momentum built from impressive defeats of England and Sri Lanka. Perhaps the most important factor will be the conditions with another slow turner expected at Nagpur and I believe this will favour the West Indies.
South Africa may have Tahir who has been the standout in their bowling attack for some time, however they are light on support for the leg-spinner plus their seamers such as Kyle Abbott and Kagiso Rabada are better suited to the faster conditions they experience at home.
Conversely the Windies have great assistance for frontline spinner Badree in the shape of the experienced Suliemann Benn, while their attack also comprises a number of medium-pace options such as Dwayne Bravo, Darren Sammy, Andre Russell and Carlos Brathwaite who are all effective at taking pace off the ball and should be well suited to conditions in Nagpur.
So with the Windies in better form so far in this competition and looking better suited to the likely conditions I’m happy to back them to continue their winning run.